It might be more difficult to find Dungeons & Dragons books at your local brick & mortar bookstore in the new year - at least if you live in the US. The publisher behind the massive tabletop RPG, Wizards of the Coast, recently ended its distribution deal with Penguin Random House to stock sourcebooks, adventures and other physical releases on retail shelves.
Wizards of the Coast announced its intentions on September 5th via the Wizards Play Network, a site where the Hasbro-owned company can communicate directly with shops and retailers. The very brief post says, “Effective January 1, 2024, Penguin Random House LLC is ceasing distribution of Dungeons & Dragons titles from Wizards of the Coast. Moving forward, your store will be able to order Dungeons & Dragons titles directly from one of our approved distributors.”
It then links to a list of the above-mentioned distributors by region, which lists six companies that will now handle Wizards of the Coasts’ distribution in the US. It makes sense that Hasbro would want to lean on its pre-existing business channels - the toy giant is one of the largest publishers of its kind and has the infrastructure to support such an empire. But as reports from ComicBook.com and io9 point out, it might leave independent book stores and retailers in the lurch.
Wizards of the Coast told ComicBook.com that the company will continue to partner with Penguin Random House to handle licensed books, such as lore compendiums and themed cookbooks (e.g. Hero’s Feat: Flavors of the Multiverse). The company goes on to promise that players won’t notice any disruption or suddenly find a lack of Monster Manuals or Players Handbooks on shelves.
That may be all well and good for players who live close to, say, a Barnes & Noble or population centre that can support multiple hobby shops in good standing with Wizards of the Coast. But more remote areas of the US often rely on book sellers and independently run shops who can order books from a distributor such as Penguin Random House with ease.
Shops and distributors often spend years developing a working relationship and Penguin Random House knows how to ship, handle and - in the case of damaged goods - replace books. As one of the largest publishers of its kind in the country, it also operates with considerably higher loss tolerance, which buyers can appreciate in the form of solid return policies and customer service.
It remains to be seen how this move will ultimately affect the availability of Dungeons & Dragons in the US, but it’s an interesting move for Wizards of the Coast to make so close to the release of D&D’s next trio of core rulebooks. If you’ve purchased any rulebooks since 5E released nearly a decade ago, it was likely handled by Penguin Random House. Will Hasbro’s distribution channels be able to match that experience, or will players be waiting weeks or months to get their hands on D&D’s future?
Dicebreaker has reached out to Wizards of the Coast for more information and will update this article accordingly.